When friends first started getting married, bridesmaids were a huge deal – no one ever asked, “Do I need a bridal party?” Everyone collected expensive bridesmaid dresses – which, let’s be honest, were never something you’d totally again – and we attended shower after shower after bachelorette party after brunch.
Now, since we’ve all been around the block a few times and attended our fair share of weddings, I’ve noticed a trend that I’m going all in on. Only one of the weddings I’ve been to in the last year and none of the ones I’ll attend in the next year have a bridal party. Yup, people are doing away with the $300 matching dresses, saying goodbye to half an hour of staged pictures, and letting their friends attend their weddings on their own terms.
DO I NEED A BRIDAL PARTY?
I’ll start off by saying, if you want a bridal party, have one! Some people are beyond excited at the thought of getting their best girl friends together, drinking mimosas, and celebrating the upcoming nuptials. So, if that’s you, do it. Your friends are expecting to be asked and delighted to be included, and no one’s going to complain (too much) about the dress and the expenses.
Should you go that route, here are a few articles I found in WeddingWire’s Bridal Party section that might come in clutch as you avoid drama and try to keep the budget down: 3 Things Bridesmaids Should Help With…And 3 They Shouldn’t, How To Avoid Bridesmaid Drama, Bride v. Bridesmaids: Who Pays, How to Create the Ultimate Bridesmaid Squad, 8 Ways to Help Bridesmaids Save Money. The bottom line is, consider who will be there for you on this day and all the others going forward, consider their budgets, and don’t overreach with expectations.
Side note: the pictures in this post are from my sister Haley’s beautiful Blue Ridge mountain wedding – she did, of course, have a bridal party, as you can see. If you need an awesome, artsy wedding photographer – anywhere in the country or world – definitely check out Polly C Photography.
Now, on to my reasons that no, you don’t absolutely have to have a bridal party just because it’s tradition. For me, one of the big reasons is that we’re having a small wedding and if I had bridesmaids, I would barely have anyone sitting in the guest seats!
I also felt that bridesmaids can be a little bit silly and old fashioned. I’m getting married, not my friends, so why would they need to stand up with me in matching dresses? I can get just as much support from my close friends and family sitting at the ceremony than I could with them standing with me. There’s no need to keep a wedding tradition if it just doesn’t make sense for you in 2018.
There’s no drama when you’re not forced to pick a handful of friends over others. There aren’t going to be people in your wedding pictures that your future children ask, “Who are they?” There can’t be friendship fallouts over something that wasn’t done according to the bride’s expectations or because a bridesmaid didn’t speak up when she thought the bride was asking too much.
I don’t need to make my friends buy insanely expensive bridesmaid dresses that likely need to be altered – not to mention shoes and jewelry. There are enough expenses that come with celebrating a close friend’s wedding, this doesn’t need to be one of them if it’s not important to you.
Your wedding day is about you and your soon to be husband. Not you and your girl friends. There are plenty of times to focus on your closest friends and, for me, this isn’t one of them.
And if avoiding drama and ditching antiquated customs isn’t enough: You’ll save $75 apiece on bouquets. There’s no awkward “Who’s paying for their hair and makeup?” question. No bridesmaid gifts to worry about. No coordinating getting ready outfits. You’re not subjecting anyone else to your crack of dawn wake up call to start getting ready – and with a 3:30 p.m. ceremony, you know mine’s going to be EARLY.
YES, YOUR FRIENDS WILL THANK YOU
Fact: I’ve never heard someone complain that their friend didn’t have bridesmaids. The advantages to going without a bridal party are many and, despite what you may read on online wedding etiquette forums, I don’t think anyone’s going to be miffed over your decision. Without bridesmaids, you eliminate the politics of picking this person because you picked that person and leaving this person out because the groom only has 6 close friends while you have 7. There are zero hurt feelings when you don’t have to rank your friends.
WHO DOES WHAT WHEN THERE AREN’T BRIDESMAIDS?
Of course without bridesmaids, there is the dilemma of “who plans the activities that the bridesmaids traditionally plan?” This is where your friends and family need to step up to the plate a bit.
- When I got engaged, the second question out of several of my friends’ mouths – after how he did it – was, “where and when is the bachelorette party?” Well friends, in order to have one, someone has to plan one. Typically that person is the maid of honor or a bridesmaid. Without one, someone is going to have to take the charge, and don’t be embarrassed to ask one of your close friends that seems particularly jazzed about it! Luckily, one of my good friends offered to plan, but had she not offered, I totally would have asked – she’s super pumped about getting away for a girls’ weekend and is happy to take the reigns. (Looking for bachelorette itineraries? WeddingWire has a roundup of great ideas!)
- Shopping for a wedding dress is one of those engagement rituals that you see idealized again and again in movies and magazines. While I can attest that it’s not typically the relaxing, girly, champagne fueled shopping session that you’ve heard it is, you should still invite a couple friends for at least one of your shopping trips! You can absolutely make them feel involved in the process – even without the bridesmaid title. And, believe me, they’ll be thankful that bridesmaid dresses aren’t up next after the wedding dress.
- For your bridal shower, from what I’ve seen for other people without bridesmaids, family tends to step in here to host, but this could also be friends planning. This is a slightly touchier subject than a bachelorette party because it would seem a bit gift grabby to ask someone to plan one for you, so this may be the one casualty of not having bridesmaids. Should you have one, here are a bunch of creative bridal shower ideas from WeddingWire that aren’t too cliche.
- As far as getting ready, this is totally up to you! Do you want a few of your friends there? Invite them! Without bridesmaids, it’s not a given that you’ll have an entourage while you get your hair and makeup done, but if you want company, just ask. You don’t have to spend your wedding morning alone just because you decided not to force your friends to stand up at the altar with you.
Even without a bridal party, you can still totally have every traditional wedding element that you imagined your engagement and wedding day would have! So, while you should totally have a bridal party if it’s important to you, the trend of going without is definitely something to consider.
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